Overly Mapled

I’m on the road today, heading to meetings in the Great White North.  Even if I didn’t know I was in Canada, though, I’d still be able to make a pretty good educated guess about my location based on this shelf in the airport convenience store.

Notice a theme here?  It’s all things maple — but does anybody really want maple-flavored caramels?

Kitto Katsu

How does a strawberry maple Kit Kat sound to you?  Or a wasabi Kit Kat?  Or a “butter” Kit Kat?  (Admittedly, I don’t have a sweet tooth, and I don’t care for Kit Kats, but I have to say that the last one sounds especially disgusting.)

dsc02575All of those unusual flavors — and many, many more — are variations of Kit Kat that are available in Japan.  In that land across the Pacific, Kit Kat is one of the most popular candy bars around.  There are about 300 different varieties of the venerable wafer and chocolate bar that you’re supposed to snap apart and share with your friend, and each has its own brightly colored wrapper.  New flavors — like the single stick, dark chocolate, coated in gold leaf Kit Kat that was sold for a short time last December — are developed all the time, too.  Even more strikingly, every region of Japan has its own special flavor of Kit Kat that is sold only in that region.

Why is Kit Kat so popular in Japan?  Well, it’s undoubtedly a classic candy bar, but a lot of the popularity has to do with the name.  Kit Kat sounds a lot like kitto katsu, which is Japanese for “surely win” — an expression of good luck.  When Japanese schoolchildren are getting ready to take their tough, make-or-break college entrance exams, they can expect to get a supply of Kit Kats as exercises in positive thinking from their family and friends.

But purple sweet potato Kit Kats?  I guess it’s the thought that counts.

Candy Care Package

IMG_4740Today Kish is going to travel north for a short visit with Russell, and she’s bringing along a care package of sorts:  a box filled with some vintage candies and a bag of peanut-butter-and-chocolate buckeyes.  It’s the kind of gift that helps to warm a cold winter’s day.

Our rental is located near the Schmidt’s Fudge Haus, which not only offers fresh handmade fudge but also has a ridiculous selection of vintage candies that you probably haven’t seen recently:  Necco Wafers, Bonamo’s Turkish Taffy, Mary Janes, Chuckles, candy cigarettes, yellow gum cigars, Teaberry gum . . . the list goes on and on.  As you walk down the aisle of goodies, looking at candies you haven’t thought of in years, it calls back fresh memories of childhood and strong recollections of precisely how those candies felt and tasted.  Who doesn’t remember the dusty, chalky feel of candy cigarettes and their brittle, sugary crunchiness?  (Not that I am suggesting that you’d want to give them to a young child these days, but things were different back in my smoke-filled childhood.)

I’m guessing that Russell will enjoy dipping into this candy care package.

Mr. Enthusiasm

Yesterday Kish and I had a fine day at our new digs  in German Village. We took some nice walks through the neighborhood and Schiller Park, enjoyed looking at the old homes, discovered a store that sells vintage candy (including Bonamo’s Turkish Taffy, the Great White Whale of hard-to-find candy of yesteryear), and experienced first-hand the straight shot five-minute “commute” to my office.

We had lunch at the Olde Mohawk, a comfortable former speakeasy turned neighborhood joint that I’d never eaten at before. As Kish and I chatted and I was enjoying a very tasty Great Lakes Brewery seasonal Christmas ale and a juicy cheeseburger at the Mohawk, I was brimming with enthusiasm for our new adventure.

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This display of boosterism made Kish smile, because it is a familiar trait. When I quit smoking once and for all more than 20 years ago I promptly began raving about how great it was to be smoke-free and how I couldn’t believe that I — or anyone else for that matter — ever smoked in the first place. When we go on trips overseas I wax rhapsodic about the interesting culture, architecture, and food. When Richard and Russell started at their various institutes of higher learning I praised the almost tangible sense of scholarly purpose those academic bastions exuded.

In short, I tend to approach most ventures — that is, those not involving being a sports sports — with wide-eyed enthusiasm. Why not? There’s time enough for brutal reality to intrude and temper perceptions, but if you can’t be enthusiastic at the outset you’re missing out on part of the fun.

Irrefutable Visual Evidence That Starburst Candy Sucks

We bought too much candy for the wet and rainy Beggars’ Night in New Albany.  Or, more precisely, we bought too much of the wrong candy — namely, Starburst.

IMG_1588On Beggars’ Night, we had our customary basket of multiple candy options to offer trick-or-treaters.  Only the youngest and most inexperienced ghosts and goblins grabbed Starbursts.  Every other Halloweener dug furiously through the contents of the basket, like a dog clawing the ground to uncover a bone, in a desperate attempt to find Butterfingers, Reese’s minis, or even Skittles.  When the last trick-or-treater had rung the doorbell, taken a sad look at what was left in the basket, and departed with a painful sigh, we were left with enough Starbursts to float a small battleship.

We didn’t want them around the house, obviously.  No problem! I thought.  I’ll just take them to the office, plop them next to the coffee station on our floor, and the perpetually hungry denizens of the fifth floor would feel the urge of their sweet tooth and consume all of the candy in the blink of an eye.  Donuts, other baked goods, and anything with chocolate have been known to disappear faster than the speed of light, and occasionally there are tense standoffs as secretaries, paralegals, and attorneys eye the last brownie or piece of birthday cake.  So I put the Starburst in a bag, took it to work, and left it to be rapidly consumed.

Imagine my surprise, then, when I found this half-full bag of Starburst when I was leaving for the day at 6 p.m. tonight.  It is an unheard-of development that speaks volumes about the quality of the candy.  So I decided to conduct the crucial acid test and leave the bag for the overnight cleaning crew to enjoy.  If any Starburst are left tomorrow morning, it can only mean one thing:  Starburst candy truly sucks.

A Rainy Beggars’ Night

IMG_5274It’s a windy, rainy Beggars’ Night tonight — which makes it very difficult to keep our jack o’ lanterns lit.  Although the weather isn’t ideal, we’ve had a decent number of trick or treaters this year — but out of an abundance of caution and a fear that we’re going to be stuck with gobs of leftover candy, we’ve also moved to the “take a handful” approach earlier than normal this year.

A Mean-Spirited Busybody Who Desperately Needs To Learn The True Meaning Of The “Trick” In “Trick Or Treat”

Today NBC’s Today show reported on the Beggars’ Night plans of a Fargo, North Dakota woman who sounds like a hopeless jerk.  Rather than handing out candy to every trick-or-treater, this officious busybody will judge whether the kids showing up at her door are “moderately obese.”  If she concludes that they are, she’ll decline to give them candy and instead will give them a note that reads:

“Happy Halloween and Happy Holidays Neighbor!

“You’re probably wondering why your child has this note; have you ever heard the saying, ‘It takes a village to raise a child’?  I am disappointed in ‘the village’ of Fargo Moorhead, West Fargo.

“You [sic] child is, in my opinion, moderately obese and should not be consuming sugar and sweets to the extent of some children this Halloween season.

“My hope is that you will step up as a parent and ration candy this Halloween and not allow your child to continue these unhealthy eating habits

Thank you”

This sounds like a fake story, but there are so many judgmental tools in the world it is completely plausible that it is, in fact, the unfortunate truth.  It’s hard to imagine what kind of supercilious dolt would tell a costumed child that they are too fat to get candy, but maybe that’s just the logical end of our increasingly patronizing, nanny-state approach to parenting and nutrition.  Setting aside the misspelling, poor grammar, and bad punctuation, which reveal the author of the note to be a poorly educated pretender, what kind of paragon of physical and ethical perfection does this woman think she is?  Can you imagine living next to such a person?

There’s only one response to this kind of behavior — and it’s why the “trick” is in “trick or treat.”  If I were a kid who got this kind of a note, it would be time to break out the soap, the toilet paper, and maybe the eggs, too.  And if I were the parent of a kid who got such a note, I might “step up” to toss a roll of toilet paper myself.